A sketch by James Baillie Fraser in the book.(HT)
A sketch by James Baillie Fraser in the book.(HT)

Rare book auction in Mumbai nets nearly 2 crore

The auction featured 67 rare volumes; the top bid of Rs25.3 lakh was for an 1820 book full of engravings
By Jayati Bhola | Hindustan Times, Mumbai
UPDATED ON MAY 25, 2018 03:16 PM IST

An exquisite book full of engravings from India published in 1820 fetched a whopping Rs 25.30 lakh at an online auction on Thursday.

The auction — Rare Books in Hindoostan, organised by Mumbai-based auction house Astaguru — was a one-of-a-kind event, featuring 67 rare volumes, many of them nearly 200 years old, on subjects ranging from architecture to travel, music, hunting, attire, civilisations, politics and even zoology.

The 1820 work, 20 Engravings & Journal Of A Tour Through Part Of The Himala Mountains by James Baillie Fraser, contains 20 lithographs, including Fraser and his brother’s sketches of the then little-known region of the Himalayas.

Among the other major lots was Blagdon’s Views of Hindoostan & Kingdom of Mysore (1805), one of the earliest colour-plate books on India, which fetched Rs 15.18 lakh (all figures are inclusive of buyer’s premium).

Views in India: Saint Helena & Car Nicobar by Major John Laurd (1833), which contains illustrations of the Taj Mahal, fetched Rs 8.05 lakh. Oriental Scenery: 150 Views of the Architecture, Antiquities and Landscape Scenery of Hindoostan, a book containing drawings and engravings of Mughal and Dravidian cityscapes by Thomas and William Daniell, fetched Rs 15.77 lakh. The 63 lots sold collectively fetched Rs 1.93 crore.

“The collectors with winning bids have essentially bought a part of history,” said Tushar Sethi, CEO of Astaguru.

It’s exciting that this kind of auction is even happening in India since we mostly see such auctions at Christie’s in London, added Mumbai-based American architect Robert Stephens, best known for his series of aerial photographs of Mumbai but a rare book collector too. “These books reflect certain values of the time they were made in — including exceptional amounts of research that went into them. These are really pieces of art and their value is finally being realised by private collectors. They are likely to be in great demand by public institutions and libraries in the future.”

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